Tuesday, June 18, 2019

June 18, 2019

MY CORNER  by Boyd Cathey

IRAN – More Never Ending War for Unobtainable Peace?


Friends,

I am not certain what to think of the saber-rattling by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo—of the long and incessant jeremiads he and National Security Advisor John Bolton have engaged in over Iran and that somehow if we don’t do “something,” well, we face Armageddon and the end of civilization as we know it.

After all Pompeo and especially Bolton have never seen a Middle Eastern (or African) conflict that they have not wanted the United States to engage in (and American boys to die in). Whether Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, Libya—the list goes on—Bolton reminds me of one of those middle school bullies who cannot rest until he has pummeled or at least humiliated every other boy who potentially might challenge his self-asserted physical superiority.

Of course, Bolton and company do have an agenda, and that is the vaunted Neoconservative ideological fixation that somehow we Americans are able to and should impose American-style “democracy” and dependency on the assorted and warring clans and Islamic sects which dominate much of that region.

It is a policy that has, let us be frank, failed miserably and horribly over the past three decades. The Brits learned the hard lesson after World War I, and then again, after misadventures in Palestine and Egypt in the 1940s and 1950s. Wisely, they exited stage right.

As for Iran and that purported evidence that the Iranians (the Revolutionary Guard?) somehow attacked non-American oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, all we have to do is recall, and recall vividly, the image of George W. Bush’s Secretary of State, Colin Powell, solemnly addressing the United Nations in 2003 with all the purported “proof” of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction he carefully illustrated to a duly impressed assembly.

It was, as we later came to discover, all fake, false, manufactured.  And probably by some of the same folks who now have made it into the Trump administration, despite being strenuously opposed to him before his election…and despite a frankly disastrous record of “nation-building” and “imposing democracy” around the world.

You would think that Bolton and his Neocon confreres would learn…but, no, their ideological and globalist blinders are too pervasive, too strong…and their commitment to never ending war for unobtainable peace will go on, even if should take the life of every American soldier to do it, the bankruptcy of the American nation, and, possibly, the re-election defeat of President Donald Trump whose agenda was precisely the opposite in 2016.

That, of course, raises a question I’ve speculated on previously: why has the president with his “America First” agenda managed to surround himself with such characters who not only do not support his views, but actively undercut them? Here is what I wrote back in May in a long article on this subject published by The Unz Review:

Certainly, it has much to do with the loudest voices and most visible talent pool inside the Washington DC Beltway and that many of those globalists, who were former Never Trumpers, strategically attached themselves to Donald Trump after he was victorious, hoping—in many cases successfully—to shape his foreign policy along their internationalist lines. And, also, the fact that during the critical days after the 2016 election many of the Establishment Neocons were able to bend Trump’s ear first, and that a major gap, a major lacuna, in the president’s knowledge was his lack of familiarity with foreign policy. As president, Donald Trump hoped to unify the Republican Party, and, thus, his desire was to bring in various factions, including those who had opposed him (but now offered “support”)…not realizing that such additions could—and would—undermine his announced America First agenda. Lastly, the support of major pro-Israeli pressure groups and personalities, and their bank accounts, certainly was not to be ignored.

And I expressed the hope that for the sake of the Trump presidency and genuine American interests Bolton, Pompeo, Elliott Abrams, and others of their ilk be removed from the administration. Or, to quote what King Henry II of England supposedly said (according to historian Simon Schama) about St. Thomas a Becket (year 1170): "What miserable drones and traitors have I nourished and brought up in my household, who let their lord be treated with such shameful contempt by a low-born cleric?” (Sometimes rendered as: “Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?”)

I pass on, then, two articles of interest. The first is a column by Patrick Buchanan who, as usual, encapsulates the issues concisely and accessibly—and reasonably.  Pat’s words should serve as a cautionary warning.

Secondly, I offer a much more developed (and referenced) essay by national security experts Robert Gaines and Scott Horton—Horton, if I recall correctly, has appeared on the Tucker Carlson Tonight program. This article appeared at The National Interest site and is well worth pondering and SHOULD be read and digested by every empty-brain Congressman in Washington.

Here is hoping—and praying—that Donald Trump will, once again, rein in his administration “experts” and then send them packing!

War With Iran Would Become 'Trump's War'
By Patrick J. Buchanan  Tuesday - June 18, 2019

"Who wants a U.S. war with Iran? Primarily the same people who goaded us into wars in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen, and who oppose every effort of Trump’s to extricate us from those wars…"

President Donald Trump cannot want war with Iran.

Such a war, no matter how long, would be fought in and around the Persian Gulf, through which a third of the world's seaborne oil travels. It could trigger a worldwide recession and imperil Trump's reelection. It would widen the "forever war," which Trump said he would end, to a nation of 80 million people, three times as large as Iraq. It would become the defining issue of his presidency, as the Iraq War became the defining issue of George W. Bush's presidency.

And if war comes now, it would be known as "Trump's War."

For it was Trump who pulled us out of the Iran nuclear deal, though, according to U.N. inspectors and the other signatories — Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China — Tehran was complying with its terms.  Trump's repudiation of the treaty was followed by his re-imposition of sanctions and a policy of maximum pressure. This was followed by the designation of Iran's Revolutionary Guard as a "terrorist" organization.

Then came the threats of U.S. secondary sanctions on nations, some of them friends and allies that continued to buy oil from Iran.

U.S. policy has been to squeeze Iran's economy until the regime buckles to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's 12 demands, including an end to Tehran's support of its allies in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

Sunday, Pompeo said Iran was behind the attacks on the tankers in the Gulf of Oman and that Tehran instigated an attack that injured four U.S. soldiers in Kabul though the Taliban claimed responsibility.

The war hawks are back.

"This unprovoked attack on commercial shipping warrants retaliatory military strikes," said Senator Tom Cotton on Sunday.

But as Trump does not want war with Iran, Iran does not want war with us. Tehran has denied any role in the tanker attacks, helped put out the fire on one tanker, and accused its enemies of "false flag" attacks to instigate a war.

If the Revolutionary Guard, which answers to the ayatollah, did attach explosives to the hull of the tankers, it was most likely to send a direct message: If our exports are halted by U.S. sanctions, the oil exports of the Saudis and Gulf Arabs can be made to experience similar problems.

Yet if the president and the ayatollah do not want war, who does?

Not the Germans or Japanese, both of whom are asking for more proof that Iran instigated the tanker attacks. Japan's prime minster was meeting with the ayatollah when the attacks occurred, and one of the tankers was a Japanese vessel.

Writing in The Wall Street Journal Monday were Ray Takeyh and Reuel Marc Gerecht, a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a neocon nest funded by Paul Singer and Sheldon Adelson. In a piece titled, "America Can Face Down a Fragile Iran," the pair make the case that Trump should squeeze the Iranian regime relentlessly and not fear a military clash, and a war with Iran would be a cakewalk.

"Iran is in no shape for a prolonged confrontation with the U.S. The regime is in a politically precarious position. The sullen Iranian middle class has given up on the possibility of reform or prosperity. The lower classes, once tethered to the regime by the expansive welfare state, have also grown disloyal. The intelligentsia no longer believes that faith and freedom can be harmonized. And the youth have become the regime's most unrelenting critics.

"Iran's fragile theocracy can't absorb a massive external shock. That's why Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has, for the most part, adhered to the JCPOA (the nuclear pact) and why he is likely angling for negotiation over confrontation with the Great Satan."

This depiction of Iran's political crisis and economic decline invites a question: If the Tehran regime is so fragile and the Iranian people are so alienated, why not avoid a war and wait for the regime's collapse?

Trump seems to have several options:

—Negotiate with the Tehran regime for some tolerable detente.

—Refuse to negotiate and await the regime's collapse, in which case the president must be prepared for Iranian actions that raise the cost of choking that nation to death.

—Strike militarily, as Cotton urges, and accept the war that follows, if Iran chooses to fight rather than be humiliated and capitulate to Pompeo's demands.

One recalls: Saddam Hussein accepted war with the United States in 1991 rather than yield to Bush I's demand he get his army out of Kuwait.

Who wants a U.S. war with Iran? Primarily the same people who goaded us into wars in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen, and who oppose every effort of Trump's to extricate us from those wars.

Should they succeed in Iran, it is hard to see how we will ever be able to extricate our country from this blood-soaked region that holds no vital strategic interest save oil, and America, thanks to fracking, has become independent of that.
*****
Attacking Iran Would Unleash Chaos on the Middle East     June 15, 2019 
There is little doubt that Osama bin Laden would have loved to see the United States attack and overthrow another of Al Qaeda's enemies, this time the Shia mullahs of Iran.
Undeterred by decades of carnage and the disastrous outcomes of prior conflicts, ideologues within the Trump administration are clamoring for military action against Iran. The exact basis for this escalation varies. Common among the allegations are concerns over Iran’s civilian nuclear program, in spite of Iranian compliance with the Non-Proliferation Treaty, Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (the Iran nuclear deal) and their Safeguards Agreement with the IAEA. Other pro-intervention voices decry Iran’s alleged sponsorship of terror organizations or cite a general concern for U.S. interests in the region as a pretext for action. This view of the Iranian regime is overly narrow and ahistorical. Iran is a conservative state in a region otherwise awash in radicalism. Any military action undertaken by the United States or its allies against the regime in Tehran will represent a grave error.
Sponsorship of terror organizations or extremist groups is a hallmark of nearly all Middle Eastern states. Saudi ArabiaQatar and Kuwait have both lent financial and material support to Sunni extremist groups involved in the Syrian Civil war. Yet they remain in good standing as U.S. allies. Even Israel has aided rebels groups in Syria near its border, though Jerusalem denies that it is supporting extremists. Iran is not beyond reproach, for it has maintained relationships with Hezbollah and Hamas. However, these groups, while on the State Department’s terrorist list, do not threaten the United States.
The claim that the Iranian regime harbors or supports Al Qaeda is patently absurd and easily disproven.
Prior to the start of the Global War on Terror, Iran supported the foremost adversary of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, the confederation of warlords known as the Northern Alliance. Following the attacks of September 11, 2001, the Iranian government handed over photocopies of three hundred passports associated with suspected Al Qaeda members to the United Nations. Of these three hundred, many would be forcibly deported back to Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries. In an additional gesture of good will, the Iranian regime offered to provide search and rescue support, humanitarian relief and targeting assistance in the fight against the Taliban and Al Qaeda to then-Deputy Secretary of State for Near East Affairs Ryan Crocker. America was initially receptive, accepting Iranian assistance in the Bonn Conference that oversaw the creation of the post-Taliban Afghan government. Special Envoy James Dobbins would later state that the Iranians were “comprehensively helpful” in the post 9/11 period.
Despite being rebuffed by George W. Bush’s “Axis of Evil” speech, the Iranians nevertheless doubled down on their commitment to positive bilateral relations with the United States. In a memorandum personally endorsed by Ayatollah Khamenei and delivered with the aid of Swiss Diplomat Tim Guldimann, the Iranian government offered to assist the United States in targeting Al Qaeda, submit to full transparency in its nuclear energy program, cease support for Palestinian groups, pressure Hezbollah into transitioning into a purely political organization, and recognize the two state concept for Israel-Palestine put forth in the Arab League Beirut Summit.
Through false attribution of an Al Qaeda attack in Riyadh to Tehran, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld were able to dissuade President Bush from additional talks with Iran. Then-Undersecretary of State for Arms Control John Bolton successfully lobbied for the removal of the Swiss intermediary Guldimann, further reducing the hope for future talks. In spite of these setbacks, Iran maintained its opposition to Al Qaeda.
From the cache of documents removed from the Abbottabad residence of al Qaeda’s slain leader, Osama bin Laden, it is known through translated correspondence that many members of the terror group who attempted to flee into Iran after the United States invaded Afghanistan were arrested by Iranian military and intelligence services. By April of 2003, Iranian forces had captured a number of higher profile Al Qaeda members like the architects of the 1998 Kenya and Tanzania embassy bombings, Saif Al-Adl and Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah, along with a former top lieutenant of Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, Khalid Mustafa Al-Aruri. Those detained in Iran also included two sons, a daughter, and a wife of Osama bin Laden. Though an exact inventory of the captured is inaccessible, it is known that with the exception of two escapees, Enan and the late Sa’d bin Laden, many al Qaeda members remained in custody at least until 2010, when a few were exchanged for a kidnapped Iranian diplomat in Pakistan. Had the United States agreed to continue cooperating with Iran for counter-terrorism purposes, it could have traded captured members of the anti-Iranian-regime Mujahideen-e Khalqh (MEK) from the battlefield in Iraq for an Al Qaeda lieutenant like Said Al-Adel or heir apparent Hamza bin Laden, rather than losing them back to the battlefield.
Figures such as former CIA director and current Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and organizations like the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD), still insist that an operational relationship exists between Iran and Al Qaeda. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, as claims like these are a staple in pre-war propaganda campaigns. In reality, as the detailed analysis of the records from Osama bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound by West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center (CTC) shows, relations between al Qaeda and Iran have been consistently antagonistic. The presence of Al Qaeda in Iran is only represented by prisoners of the regime. With Al Qaeda active in contiguous states, captive Al Qaeda members represent negotiating leverage and a deterrent against future attacks.
Attacks by Al Qaeda affiliates and splinter groups inside the country, such as a massive attack in February on members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, have further undercut accusations that Iran is acting as a haven for extremist groups. To counter these groups, Iran has deployed its forces to the battlefields of Syria and Iraq, making considerable sacrifices in combating the Islamic State, and these contributions should be regarded as a critical factor in the defeat of the Bin Ladenite factions and splinter groups in both nations.  
An American military campaign against Iran would only succeed at great cost. The Iranian military is better organized and equipped than many countries in the region. Through the use of intermediate range missiles, Iranian forces could effectively engage large U.S. installations in Iraq, Kuwait, Afghanistan, Qatar, and Bahrain, as well as U.S. Arab allies in the Persian Gulf. U.S. naval vessels could be highly vulnerable to Iranian modern anti-ship missiles as well.
After the United States suppresses Iran’s integrated air defense systems and anti-aircraft fire, U.S. forces should be capable of destroying the regime in Tehran, at least in the short term. However, the prospect of occupying and stabilizing a country whose population and landmass far exceed that of Iraq should be a formidable deterrent. If, after initial costs of $2 trillion and decades of U.S. involvement, Iraq is still in disarray, how could any rational governing body logically pursue a similar strategy against a country over three times the size, with a complex topography and an equally diverse ethnic and religious landscape? The Iranian regime, while imperfect, does maintain a general stasis between the varied sects of Shia and Sunni Muslims in the country. Under the chaos of war and foreign-military occupation, the outbreak of sectarian warfare like that of Iraq is a real possibility, made worse by the virulently anti-Shia Al Qaeda and ISIS waiting at the periphery. Prolonged and extensive carnage would surely follow. 
Further complicating such a campaign would be the presence of the Marxist guerilla cult and U.S. foreign-policy establishment favorite, the Mujahideen-e Khalqh (MEK), who would also be vying for control of the state, despite that their popular support inside Iran is approximately nonexistent. The combination of these factors seriously diminishes the long-term probability of success for a U.S. invasion of Iran.
Some reporting last year suggested that the administration was considering launching a series of air attacks based on Bill Clinton’s “Operation Desert Fox” model. This would be based on the premise that the Iranians would be too smart to dare fight back and provoke even worse American wrath. Of course, this would seem to be a fairly optimistic take from those claiming that Iranian aggression against U.S. forces is forcing them to respond militarily in the first place.
That Iran’s so-called provocations are exaggerated and that they are likely to defend themselves with force if attacked would seem to be the more reasonable assessment.

As with all military incursions undertaken by the United States during the Global War on Terror, a major victor will be the Al Qaeda members who sought to draw U.S. forces deeper into the Middle East for the purpose of waging a war of financial attrition against the United States and destabilizing U.S. regional allies. There is little doubt that Osama bin Laden would have loved to see the United States attack and overthrow another of Al Qaeda’s enemies, this time the Shia mullahs of Iran, and sow a whole new generation of sectarian war, and warriors, throughout formerly stable, opposition-held Iran.

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                                                  May 8, 2021     MY CORNER by Boyd Cathey Aggressive Abroad and Despotic at Home:  ...